- Boxall-Hunt, Brian OBE, Commander, RN
- History - WW2, WWI operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 2004 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
At 2130 on 4th June the senior commanders gathered again in the library; the sound of the wind and rain was clearly audible despite the blackout curtains. Group Captain Stagg, the senior meteorologist, gave details of a new forecast: a general improvement, possibly lasting a little over 24 hours. A tentative decision to make D-Day 6th June was made – there seemed to be a prospect of an improvement in the weather and it was realised that no second postponement to 7th was possible because of ships’ fuel states. Postponement for a fortnight would be very risky as all the troops were by now fully briefed. The air commanders – Air Chief Marshal Tedder (Deputy Supreme Commander) and Leigh-Mallory (Air Forces Commander) – did not agree because the weather forecast was still marginal for air support.
At 0415 on 5th June, after hearing all opinions, Eisenhower, in the room which became the bar and marked by his photograph and a plaque, announced his decision. He said three words –
‘OK – LET’S GO!’
H-hour was therefore on 6th June at 6.30 a.m. in the American sector and between 7.25 and 7.45 a.m. in the British Sector.
German forces on D-Day were the 15th Army in the Calais area and the 7th Army in the Normandy area (the latter under the command of General Dollman). These two armies formed Army Group B ‘for special deployment’ under Field Marshal Rommel, who in turn was under Commander-in-Chief, West, Field Marshal von Runstedt.
Rommel favoured defence on the beaches – mines, obstacles, guns and armour within five miles of the coast, whilst von Runstedt favoured holding the main forces inland, with the infantry mobile and armour concentrated in reserve. Rommel’s plan was adopted, save that the armour was kept well inland, after experience in Sicily and at Salerno had shown that tanks were no match for naval gunfire. (In the event Hitler and Jodl refused to release the Panzers to the invasion area until p.m. on 6th, by which time von Runstedt was reported as ‘fuming with rage, red in the face, anger making his speech unintelligible‘).
Von Runstedt’s appreciation was that the landings would be in the Pas de Calais, particularly as he knew that the British were aware that V1 launchings were about to start; the first V1 arrived in London on 16th June 1944. Allied bombing against the transport systems had been carefully planned to avoid revealing the position of the landings, but the German Navy had deduced the correct answer from the lack of Allied mining in the Normandy area. However, Admiral Krancke had signalled on 4th June ‘Allied invasion cannot be assumed imminent‘. He stated that 4th – 6th June were not suitable for landings, because the tide was not right and the sea was too rough. His E-boats remained in harbour. It is interesting to note that Brigadier General Meyer-Detring, who as von Runstedt’s Chief Intelligence Officer, supported these views, was later (in 1960) NATO Chief of Intelligence at AFCENT.
Allied intelligence staffs had thought there was a leak when they noticed the words Neptune, Overlord, Omaha and Mulberry featured in Daily Telegraph crosswords in May and June 1944. However, as a result of their own intelligence assessments senior German officers had dispersed prior to D-Day. Rommel went on leave to Germany and the Seventh Army Commander, General Dollman, had summoned all regimental and Divisional Commanders to a War Game at his headquarters at Rennes in Brittany on 6th June. On 6th June Admiral Krancke was en route to Bordeaux by road.
A complicated and vast Allied cover plan was built around known enemy agents, false communication nets and a mock-up invasion fleet to simulate a Pas de Calais assault. General George Patton was the centre of this cover plan with his First Army Group Headquarters in the Dover area. So successful was this deception plan that the German 15th Army did not leave the Pas de Calais defensive position until six weeks after D-Day and these 19 Divisions were kept out of the D-Day fighting. On D-Day itself deception was maintained by feint operations BIG DRUM, TAXABLE and GLIMMER. Only one in six of the 120 major German radars in 47 stations between Guernsey and Calais was serviceable on D-Day, due to bombing, and these were deceived by the feint operations. All electronic warfare effort on D-Day was British. Caen radar detected the invasion fleet but was ignored by headquarters as reports were not confirmed by other stations. First reports of the invasion which were credited in the German HQ were visual sightings of the invasion force from shore. The 15th Army in the Pas de Calais had both intercepted and understood (because the meaning had leaked) BBC messages to French resistance forces meaning that the invasion was within 48 hours. This was signalled to Army Group B in Paris, 15th Army stood to, but the message was not passed to the 7th Army in Normandy.